If you’re planning the vacation of a lifetime, there’s no better option than sunny Barcelona. But before you visit the city, there are a few things you need to learn.
Enjoy our list of things to avoid doing in Barcelona. Steer clear of these common tourist gaffes, and you’re sure to have an amazing time.
To Have a Great Barcelona Vacation, DO NOT…
1. … assume everyone speaks English.
Like all European tourist destinations, Barcelona has its fair share of English speakers. If you get turned around or need help, you’ll easily find locals willing to communicate with you in your language.
But please don’t expect everyone everywhere to speak English. Always stay courteous and brush up on the basics (hello, thank you, have a good day) in both Spanish and Catalan.
2. … assume everyone wants to speak Spanish, either.
Barcelona is proudly bilingual, using both Spanish and Catalan as official languages.
About 95% of Barcelonans speak both languages. However, many people prefer to use Catalan among themselves, and you won’t always receive a positive response by trying to switch the conversation to Spanish.
3. … call Catalan a “dialect”.
It is a separate language. There’s no debate here.
Also: don’t try to comment on the nuances of local culture and politics unless you’ve put in some serious research over the years.
You’re on vacation! It’s best to steer clear of delicate subjects and focus on enjoying yourself.
4. … call the city “Barca”.
Barcelona welcomes and appreciates fútbol fans from all around the world. But one annoying habit these fans share is calling the city Barca.
This nickname is never used by locals. You’ll immediately stand out as a clueless tourist if you use it.
5. … assume everyone is expecting a tip.
Tipping culture in this city might be different from what you’re used to.
While the prices in Barcelona might raise your eyebrows – especially if you stick to the overhyped, touristy locales – it’s important to remember that the locals aren’t usually expecting a tip. If they are, they’ll tell you.
That’s true for restaurants, but also for taxis and other services!
If you are truly impressed with the service, a 5-10% tip might be appropriate. But it’s not necessary to calculate that into every interaction.
6. … stick to dishes you’re familiar with.
Planning to visit the city’s amazing restaurants and eateries? Do yourself a favor and order something you’ve never tried before.
Make sure to try the paella and the fideuà, but don’t stop there. Escalivada is a Catalan dish of roasted vegetables that is sure to rock your world, and there are hundreds of delicious fish dishes you can’t experience anywhere else. And don’t skip the cava, the unique local beers, and – for those who love sweet wines – a glass or two of Moscatel.
7. … make too much noise, especially in the Gothic Quarter.
The nightlife in Barcelona is still recovering from the pandemic, but there are plenty of great clubbing options for the wild and free.
But please remember: Barcelona streets are narrow, and many of the older buildings have questionable sound isolation. Don’t keep the locals awake at night! There’s a time and place for letting loose.
8. … wear beach clothes when you’re going sightseeing.
The architecture of this city is a living testament to its colorful history: it’s dominated by Catalan modernism, but rich in Baroque and Renaissance influences too.
Tourists are welcome in the city’s many churches, monasteries, mansions, and cathedrals. For example, everyone needs to see the Castillo Torre Salvana, standing proud since the 10th century.
But please use common sense when touring these buildings and monuments. Normal street clothes are fine, beach attire is not!
9. … ignore photography restrictions.
Barcelona is a paradise for visitors who have a passion for photography.
Read more: The most beautiful nature photos ever
But keep in mind that some attractions restrict or ban photos/selfies. For example, you can’t take free snapshots of the living statues on Las Ramblas. Appreciate the performance art for what it is, or pay the artists before you photograph them.
10. … stay inside on rainy afternoons.
If you’re unlucky enough to deal with bad weather during your vacation, Barcelona has plenty of lovely indoor attractions to offer. For example, museum enthusiasts shouldn’t miss out on the Foundation dedicated to Joan Miró’s work.
11. … spend all your time on the beach.
Barcelona has some great beaches, but that’s not the main appeal of the city. In particular, La Barceloneta beach is overcrowded and overpriced.
If you’d like to take a dip in the Mediterranean, consider taking a drive to nearby coastal towns.
Read more: Best beach towns to visit in Spain
12. … be careless with your stuff.
Like with any tourist-popular location, it’s important to stay vigilant in Barcelona. While the city is considered relatively safe, opportunistic crime does happen. Keep your possessions close, and don’t dress too ostentatiously.
13. … leave ticket purchases for the last minute.
The city’s best attractions have an entrance fee. Be prepared to buy your tickets well in advance – or else you’ll miss out on wonders like the surrealist park that blends Antoni Gaudí’s artistic vision with the natural beauty of the region.
14. … have dinner on the main street.
While there are plenty of cool things to see on Las Ramblas, the food is both too expensive and underwhelming. If you want to dine out, put in the effort to find some less touristy, more authentic options.
Here’s what you DO need to do:
Let this city change you. Keep an open mind, take in the beauty and unique atmosphere. Talk to the locals, go see some flamenco performers, and try things you’ve never tried before.
And if Barcelona captures your heart? Consider coming back next year.